Ankita* and Sudeep*, both 21, have been in a monogamish relationship for two and a half years. They’re boyfriend and girlfriend, but have sex with other people. They met at the private university in Delhi where they are both students. Ankita is from Jamshedpur and studying English and Journalism, while Sudeep is from Mumbai and studies Political Science and International Relations. With open relationships reportedly on the rise, couples like Ankita and Sudeep are defining what they look like in India.
VICE: When did you first hear about open relationships?
Sudeep: I must have read about it somewhere.
Ankita: When I was in Grade 7.
Were you open from the start?
Ankita: Yeah. We were friends with benefits for awhile, then we started dating each other. He came with a lot of preconceived ideas.
Sudeep: I was afraid about it. But we spoke a lot in that time—honest conversation. Also, she gave up a lot, initially. Because we didn’t have sex with other people for awhile.
Ankita: Sex is like playing tennis, dude. You can’t keep playing with the same partner. Also, it’s so much fun. You play it with new people. New techniques—you feel young again.
What is it about the open relationship that appeals to you?
Sudeep: The fact that it’s an open relationship means that I trust her even more so, respect her even more so. I don’t feel the need to say “Hey, you know, you can’t do this with your body.” Before dating Ankita, I was in a closed relationship, and I never imagined I could be in an open relationship. So she sort of changed me for the good.
Ankita: I think closed relationships come with the idea that someone has power over you. You don’t own my body. I’ve always thought of sex and love as very different things. I can love him, but you know, I can be turned on by a lot of different things at a lot of different times.
Do you view closed relationships as a patriarchal institution?
Ankita: The idea is that it doesn’t matter what your vagina wants—which is completely different from your mind, people don’t understand that. Sexual desire and how you feel about someone is completely different. Also the whole idea of cheating, we wanted to eliminate.
Do either of you have to consult each other before hooking up with someone?
Sudeep: No, but I prefer to. Even before we were dating, she was like my best friend, so if I’m interested in some girl, then obviously I’m going to ask her. Also for advice, like how you talk to your best friend about a crush you have.
Ankita: Yeah that kinda advice even I ask him, if I’m going on a date. What should I wear? Should I have sex on the first date? The kind of questions you would ask any friend.
How many people have you had sex with since you started dating?
Sudeep: Do you need help counting?
Ankita: Shut up.
Ankita: I think I can count six.
Sudeep: I’ve had sex with four other people.
How much detail do you share with each other about sexual encounters?
Ankita: Oh, I tell him everything. I tell him so much sometimes that he’s like “Okay got it, you had great sex.” I like going back to the sex I had the night before, and just kind of recounting—that was good, that wasn’t. It’s like improving your technique.
Sudeep: It’s like, if you’re a football player and you watch a tape from last night to see how you performed. If it’s bad, I tell her.
Ankita: It’s kind of sad, like, who wants to hear about bad sex? It’s like, oh I had a bad match, okay, whatever, get over it. He doesn’t tell me the good, you know, spicy things. Sometimes I just interrogate him.
How do you approach a third person about sex?
Ankita: Finding that one person in a crowd who will be actually fine with it is very difficult.
Sudeep: I generally hook up with people I know. The last person I hooked up with, I knew for a year before I hooked up with her. What do I say to the girl? “Hey I find you attractive, I think you’re smart. I have a girlfriend, but I want to have sex with you. My girlfriend’s fine with it, I’m fine with it.” It’s damn difficult.
Is this a trend at your college?
Sudeep: I don’t know anyone else. I know a lot of guys who want to be in an open relationship where they can have sex with other girls, but the girl is not allowed to have sex with other people.
Have you become more adventurous about sex?
Sudeep: I feel like I would have been adventurous even if we weren’t open.
Ankita: No way. The first time we were having sex, he was like “we’ll have slow missionary sex,” and I was like “What the fuck? I mean we’re already fucking. Might as well do all the fun stuff.”
Sudeep: Different people have different favorite positions, different things that turn them on, different things that make them cum.
Ankita: The fact that a lot of people can’t find the fucking spot, you can only find it after having sex with a lot of people, I’m telling you.
How does an open relationship affect your sex life?
Sudeep: Have I gotten better at sex?
Ankita: Yeah, definitely.
Sudeep: I know I’m more confident, especially with oral sex.
Ankita: Every time he’s had sex with someone else, he’ll have a new technique which maybe he doesn’t realise. But I know.
Sudeep: It’s like practice. If you do more, you get better at it. Like learning to play a guitar.
*Names have been changed.